Accountability meeting questions St. Richard Gwyn
What changes will you put in place if elected, to ensure suitable jobs for those lucky enough to graduate?
3 main areas, training, plan for growth and encouraging regeneration in local communities in Wales.
5000 training grants a year
Its a valid concern, many employeers are concerned about the relative skills shortage in Wales. Its a fact that other countries have skills and productivity that are higher – this stems partially from underfunding in education but thats another conversation! We need to ensure that the high level of youth unemployement in Wales attracts employeers who see the potential in Welsh youth. We will offer grants of up to £2000 to employeers who take on an unemployed person who is aged under 25 and has a training need. The employer will apply for this grant and we will ensure that the grant is for training that will benefit the Welsh economy. For example we wouldnt allow funding of courses in areas that are over subscribed or are not relevant to the area (gold mining!). This will ensure that companies are encouraged to help people get a foot hold on a career AND it helps them!
As liberal democrats we are not going to have a top down approach to which courses we are going to fund. Quite frankly we are not all experts in the next big business field and it would be arrogant to think so, therefore we will be open minded to what companies want to use the grant for. This training can be in whatever form the companies want – assuming it passes our earlier criteria – if they want it to be academic, masters based, PHD etc that is fine if it brings prosperity, if they want it to be an accredited courses from a further education college again that is fine as well.
If there is an over demand for this scheme (which we expect as it is a good scheme for individuals, companies AND Wales) we will focus it on small businesses as they are often times the groups that need the leg up – larger companies can swallow the cost themselves. This grant is good for youth unemployment and it will ensure that people have a chance at becoming whatever they want to be in a vibrant Welsh economy.
Welsh Stock Exchange/Jobs and Growth Innovation Programme
We will ensure that businesses in Wales have the access to capital that unfortunately isnt always there from banks. The Welsh Stock Exchange will ensure that small businesses become growing businesses which ultimately become HIRING businesses. This is a long term plan and will ensure that we are helping people start their careers for years to come.
We will also establish a Jobs and Growth Innovation Fund (worth £20m a year) that will have specific remit to fund new and modern tech and invest in new programmes that will make sure that modern business have infrastructure and facilites to create jobs in Wales. This money can be used to fund research for green industries (which make no doubt IS the next multi billion £ sector), aerospace firms like Airbus in Broughton or to help build infrastructure and skills in new and growing areas. Finally the Welsh Lib Dems will encourage this money to be used for smaller businesses to get business mentoring to help them grow and become the next companies to provide us with Dragons on Dragons Den or to allow universities to develop intellectual property which means that Wales can increase the number of patents we have based here – again bringing money into Wales which will ensure that jobs are available for people in Flintshire for years to come
Finally there will also be chances for Local Authorities to attract jobs to the local area. We believe that by giving councils new powers to regenerate areas through what they receive in business rates. This model is already being used in Scotland and is being looked at by England – We have been left behind with this and its a travesty. If we can encourage local authorities to fund business regeneration it will encourage jobs and will ensure that younger people neednt fear a live being unable to contribute.
Therefore in summary, we will invest in training our new work force to be the best it can be, we will provide the infrastructure for growth and we will encourage investment and regeneration to ensure jobs are there for people!
What initiatives will you put in place, if elected, to ensure affordable housing for young people?
Being a relatively new home owner I understand the position first time buyers are in. Asking for huge deposits whilst facing wage freezes and uncertain financial futures is tough. We want to change that. The price of houses is largely down to a supply and demand issue. There are simply not enough houses being built and we would like to increase the amount of construction and the renovation of empty properties to fulfil the need. Estimates say we will need over 250,000 new homes by 2026.
I will support the Welsh Liberal Democrat plan to bring empty properties back into use with the Wales-wide Empty Homes Programme. This will
- Give grants to owners of long term properties to renovate their property and bring it back into use. In exchange the owner will have to use the property as social housing for 10 years.
- Allow councils to charge additional council tax on empty properties. This compensates the community for the wasted house and provides an incentive for the owner to bring it back into use
- We will also make it easier for councils to return empty properties to use by streamlining the Empty Dwelling Management Orders. Basically making it easier to get houses back on the market which means supply will increase whilst demand decreases
We will help authorities and housing associations to borrow cash and to use grants to turn properties into homes to rent. This influx of housing will decrease demand for homes and will ensure prices come down. Welsh Lib Dems will also support first time buyers in Wales by offering 'shared equity schemes'. This will enable people to partly own their homes making home ownership cheaper and a more realistic possibility.
Our plan for a Community Bill of rights also has bearing on this issue – we want to hand more power over to communities with regards to planning law. This will mean being able to purchase a second home in another community will be more difficult. Tightening up this planning area will mean that local communities will be able to utilise the local housing for people in the area, this will increase the supply, lower the demand and mean that more people are able to get a foot on the ladder in Flintshire.
Welsh Liberal Democrats will bring more private money into the sector through the Welsh Housing Investment Trust.
WHIT would lever an additional £100 million of capital market investment to make the Social Housing Grant go further.
This new body would invest directly in property including property leased to Registered Social Landlords (RSLs).
It would enable us to overcome many of the barriers facing social housing in Wales by ensuring that funding was there to build, maintain and expand affordable housing in Wales.
Finally, this is linked to the wider economic question. We don't want people in Flintshire crippling themselves financially to afford mortgages. When we kickstart the economy we will ensure people have the security to make their payments, raise their living standards and be able to contribute to the wider economy by getting more skilled, better paid jobs!
So to summarise, there is a problem, not enough houses are available, we need to make them available by ensuring investment in areas in need of regeneration, filling empty properties, finding private sector money for the area of social housing and offering shared equity schemes for new owners.
What would you do to counter claims that we have a South Wales Assembly Government?
I wouldnt, however I would attempt to clarify where the blame for this lies. The buck stops with out elected representatives. Basically I think we need harder working AM's as quite frankly at the moment they are ineffective. Let me give you some facts about our level of representation in North Wales. This is not a witch hunt against any specific AM's. They can defend their own voting records on issues but its worth knowing how much of the cake we get in North Wales:
The WAG instigated an economic recovery program aimed at ALL of Wales. It was designed to help us get out of the economic rut we face. This Single Investment Fund and Economic Renewal Programme invested £48 million in Wales which sounds excellent but when we dig down. It equates to just over £10 per person in North Wales, compared to £24 to everyone in South Wales! If we dig deeper Wrexham, a massive industrial base not far from here got 0.68p, compared to Newport in the south (song) which got £70!!!
Not too long ago (2007) we had a furore when the Labour Plaid Government in Cardiff wanted to make all patients in Wales attend southern hospitals for Brain surgery – fairly complicated stuff! It was more important to send them to a Welsh hospital rather than 30 miles down the road to Liverpool! Thankfully there was a climb down from Labour who relented rather than send desperately sick people on a 400 mile round trip. Why wasnt a North Walian approach considered first?
In North Wales we are underfunded again with regard to arts and culture. The bottom 5 funded councils are all in the North and Flintshire is dead last! Flintshire is the home of Theatre Clwyd, one of the premier culture centres in the UK, never mind Wales and it comparitably less funding that South Wales? Is it the WAGs fault? It is the standard of representation, I would go for the latter!
Considering there is issues with north/south we would hope that transport links where a major concern of the WAG and specifically North Wales AM's however again we are not represented – this just underlines the question that raises as to whether we do have a Southern Assembly? There is a new high speed train that goes from Holyhead to Cardiff stopping in all North Wales constituencies – apart from the most populous (FLINTSHIRE!) Why do our AM's not do something about this? Arriva who run it say its a WAG issue and we have AM right here in Flintshire who are not standing up for us when vital services like this are being proposed? Indeed something else to consider is that in Wales there is a public transport planning committee which helps build up Welsh transport links – but ALL of the representatives are from south Wales!
What are our representatives doing!!!! Why is Flintshire and the north being overlooked?? Its not the Assemblies fault, its an institution. Its not the fault of South Wales AM's, quite frankly they are doing a great job and I would be proud to know my AM was working so hard for my constituency! We need to ask searching questions of our own representatives. Why does South Wales get so much? Is the fact that you consider yourselves to be safe seats mean u dont have to work hard for your constituencies or is it that they are out of their depths?